Sue Snyder, wife of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, told statewide community college leaders this morning that there needs to be more discussion on the issue of sexual assault, and more efforts to end it.
Snyder was on campus to speak at the Michigan Community College Consortium at Grand Rapids Community College.
Snyder, director of the Let’s End Campus Sexual Assault program, announced that there will be a second annual summit this fall at the University of Michigan and spoke on the importance of awareness.
“I just feel like this has been a taboo topic for too long,” Snyder said.
Snyder has become more of an advocate of campus sexual assault as her two daughters have gone through college.
“I’ve just become more aware of what’s going on on these campuses and it’s very upsetting,” Snyder said. “I felt I needed to dive in.”
The Let’s End Campus Sexual Assault program warrants a $500,000 grant from the State of Michigan each year. Colleges and universities apply for grant money to apply to their Title IX programs on campus. Last year, GRCC received $7,716.
Snyder announced today that the funding has been approved for this year’s program.
“I love how excited (GRCC) is to be having these dollars to get things going and they’ve never been this involved before,” Snyder said. “It’s great to see that.”
For community college students who don’t necessarily experience sexual assault on campus, Snyder encourages bystanders to intervene.
“You have to be aware of your surroundings,” Snyder said. “There needs to be bystander intervention and you should always be in groups.”
Marty Heator is the Associate Dean of Enrollment Management and Student Relations at Schoolcraft College. He said the sexual assault issues universities face are very different than the ones community colleges face.
“Every chance we get to get together with other community colleges and experts in the field, we’ll take that opportunity because we need to learn from each other,” Heator said.
Heator said at Schoolcraft College, where there are about 11,500 students, there are more reports of off-campus sexual assault, stalking, unwanted attention and unhealthy relationships.
“We’re learning how to better partner with local domestic violence and sexual assault resources,” Heator said.
Sarah Prout Rennie of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence has spent 20 years litigating cases in domestic and sexual violence. She spoke to the Title IX leaders about the importance of ending sexual assault on college campuses.
“Community colleges are often ignored in all conversations about sexual assault,” Rennie said, who went to a community college before attending law school. “I feel very passionately that community college students deserve the same rights that any other university student might.”
Rennie praised GRCC as being a leader in ending sexual assault on campus.
New topics to be covered at this year’s “Let’s End Campus Sexual Assault” summit include Greek life, athletics and the high school community.
“(Students) need to be taught earlier on, instead of when you get into college,” Snyder said. “It needs to be a discussion at home or in the schools as to what goes on in college and what might happen and to be more aware.”
The consortium is the third this year hosted by the college on sexual assault prevention and awareness. Other speakers included GRCC’s Title IX Coordinator Kimberly DeVries on transgender policy and Lisa Winchell-Caldwell of the MCEDSV on bystander intervention.
The second annual “Inform. Empower. Prevent. Let’s End Campus Sexual Assault” summit will be held Sept. 30 at the University of Michigan’s North Campus Research Complex in Ann Arbor.